Declining Holiday Requests

The sun is beginning to shine (at last) and with the cost of holidaying abroad ever increasing, this summer is likely to be more popular for holiday requests, than ever before. Holiday is more than a statutory right. It allows employees to rest and recuperate and maintains well-being and a work/life balance, so employees are more productive when they are at work.

It would be easier to be able to grant everyone’s holiday requests for a peaceful workplace however this isn’t always possible. There are a number of reasons why you might not be able to grant an employee’s holiday request:

  • It may be a particularly busy time for your business
  • You may have too many people off at one time
  • The employee has insufficient annual leave remaining in the current holiday year
  • The employee hasn’t yet accrued sufficient annual leave

Delivering the news to the employee may result in a difficult conversation however there are steps that you can take to prevent that situation happening in the first place:

  • Make it clear that holiday isn’t authorised until a holiday form has been signed by their line manager
  • Ensure your employees know the amount of notice required before an expected days’ holiday
  • Inform employees they must not book holidays/flights prior to their leave being authorised

When might holiday be refused?

There should be a clear written system or policy which explains how managers prioritise holiday requests. This might be a ‘first come, first served’ system or, for busy periods such as Christmas, employees can be invited to submit their holiday requests in advance and managers can make decisions based on objective factors (such as who has worked previously over Christmas).  If managers appear to make decisions that are not objective, or do not approach requests consistently, they leave themselves open to allegations of favouritism and possibly even discrimination.

Unauthorised Leave

It is a potential disciplinary issue if an employee calls in sick or does not turn up on a day that he or she had holiday refused, and employers should conduct a return to work interview and seek appropriate evidence of sickness from the employee.

Can I refuse a request?

Employers should reserve the right to refuse requests due to business needs and should also outline to employees the maximum number of consecutive days’ leave they can take. It is also worth clarifying any particular times of the year when workers will be required or not permitted to take holiday (for example, at Christmas or busy summer periods). Ensuring that employees have this kind of information at the start of their employment will mean that there is less disappointment later on.

When refusing a holiday request, it is important to suggest an alternative day or time that fits in with the business needs and other employee’s holiday commitments. We would advise that you decline a holiday request in writing to ensure best practice.

Line managers should respond to holiday requests promptly, particularly if they are refusing a request, giving legitimate reasons for the refusal with reference to the holiday policy if you have one. The longer you leave it, employees may assume this has been authorised.

What is best practice?

Circulate holiday request forms which also include a section for the managers’ signature to approve or authorise the holiday. The form should also clearly state the accrued holiday to date and the amount of days remaining to avoid any confusion.

Have a policy or guidelines on holiday which includes:

  • How holiday should be requested
  • To whom such requests should be made
  • The circumstances in which holiday requests may be refused

Getting holiday requests wrong may cause your workers to become frustrated and disengaged, as well as a potential increase in sickness, unauthorised absences and grievances. Getting it right creates an engaged, happy and productive workforce.

If you need any assistance with a holiday request form or drafting a letter or policy relating to declining holiday requests, get in touch.